SC notice on PIL seeking release of abducted Indian seamen

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 13:30 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice on a PIL seeking direction to ministries of external affairs, home and shipping to intervene for securing the release of 34 Indian seamen held hostages by the Somalian pirates.

A bench of Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra issued notice on a PIL by an advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking the government's intervention for the "expeditious" release of 34 fishermen held captive by the Somalian pirates.

Bansal has also sought direction to the government to frame "effective anti-Piracy guidelines and to implement the same in a proper and timely manner".

The PIL said that the Somalian pirates have been holding captive six of the 34 Indian seamen since March 29, 2010 and 17 others since March 2, 2012 and 11 seamen May 10, 2012.

Panaman-flagged MV Iceberg, hijacked March 29, 2010 in international waters off east Africa, had 24 crew members out of which 6 were Indians, while Royal Grace, hijacked March last year in the Arabian Sea which had 17 Indian in the crew of 22.

The remaining 11 were out the 26 member crew of Liberian-flagged Symrni.

The PIL said that the information available on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) says that "till date not even a single Indian seaman was released by the Somalian pirates".

Bansal also told the court that another ship having Indian citizens was hijacked by the Somalian sea pirates in December 2012.

The court was told that the relatives of 17 Indians who were on board Royal Grace had June 20, 2012, made representation to the Indian president, prime minister, and ministries of foreign affairs and shipping but, till date, had not received a satisfactory reply.

The petition contended that parliament had enacted a law to effectively deal with unlawful acts which endanger the safety of maritime navigation and the safety of the people and their property. The law provides for stringent punishment for various unlawful acts on the sea.

It said that the lives of the people at sea can't be put at risk like this and it was the "fundamental, constitutional and very basic duty of the government to protect the life and liberty of the citizens of India within India as well as outside India and the violation of the same infringes the Article 19, 21 and other provisions of the Constitution of India".

The non-effective response by the government to deal with the hijacking of ships with Indian citizens at high seas itself shows that the government has not adopted a proper mechanism to deal with such incidents, the PIL said.

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